Australia’s out Olympic legend Ian Thorpe has joined hands with Equality Australia to launch a powerful campaign against the Morrison government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.

The Bill was a promise made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison before the last elections. A fresh draft of the legislation likely to be placed before the Parliament later this month. 

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Thorpe, who was recently elevated to legend status in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, in a statement cautioned that the proposed legislation “threatens to take us backwards as a society, winding back hard-fought protections for women, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability and, ironically, people of faith.”

‘Protect All People In The Community Equally’

Thorpe joined others including professional basketballer Lauren Jackson and author Benjamin Law in the video campaign that was released on Tuesday.

The campaign includes an open letter signed by over 250 organisations and individuals calling on the Morrison government “to deliver fair and equal discrimination laws that protect all people in the community equally.”

“According to reports last week, the government has scaled back some aspects of the bill, but what remains would override existing protections for some of the community’s most vulnerable and compromise access to healthcare without judgement and inclusive workplaces,” said Thorpe. 

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“The Australian parliament must come together to ensure our laws protect all of us, equally, no matter who we are, what we believe, or whom we love.”

‘Folau Clause’ Is Not The Only Harmful Provision

The new draft of the Bill has not yet been published, but recent reports have indicated that attorney general Michaelia Cash may have dropped the controversial ‘Folau clause‘.

The provision, that was demanded by conservative Christian organisations, is named after rugby player Israel Folau, whose contract was terminated by Rugby Australia over his homophobic social media posts. 

Folau had posted on social media that “hell awaits”  “sinners” including “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” and they they should “repent”. 

The Folau clause had aimed at barring employers from framing policies and social media codes to stop employees from expressing their religious views. The provision that would allow healthcare workers to refuse treatment to people on religious grounds has also reportedly been binned. 

Activists say, even if the Folau clause is dropped there are other provisions that seek to discriminate against LGBTQI people, women and other vulnerable groups. 

Damaging ‘Statement Of Beliefs’ Clause

“The Morrison Government has retained some of the worst provisions of the Bill, including damaging ‘statements of belief’ provisions that would override existing state and territory anti-discrimination protections. These provisions undermine everyone’s right to respect and dignity at work, school and whenever they access goods and services like healthcare,” said Ann Brown, Equality Australia CEO. 

There are fears that the new federal law would override state anti-discrimination laws, including in Tasmania and Victoria. The Victorian parliament is currently debating a law that would make it difficult for religious and faith-based schools from firing staff for being LGBTQI. 

“Laws like those being debated in Victoria at the moment bring the law into step with 21st century community expectations and the practices of many faith-based organisations that have diverse workforces and seek to treat people with dignity and respect”, said Brown, adding, ““Overriding hard-fought protections in Victoria and other states would be an extraordinary act of overreach.”

You can read the open letter at the Equality Australia website.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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